It’s the fifth anniversary of the Nintendo Switch and I don’t think I’ve ever told the story of how I got mine—it was early 2017, and I was at a pretty low point in my short-lived adult life. I was broke, my girlfriend at the time had just broken up with me, and I was forced to move back home while tirelessly looking for jobs. Despite this, one of the things I was still most excited about was the Nintendo Switch; after initially being blown away by its reveal in October 2016, and only fuelled further by the in-depth Nintendo Switch presentation in January
One of my other friends shared my anticipation, and we had been excitedly talking for a while about when we were going to get our Switches. But as the day grew closer, and my financial reality began to set in, I realized I probably wouldn’t get one. He texted me the night before the Switch was released, “We getting our Switches tomorrow?” To which I responded, that after thinking about it; it wasn’t practical for me to get one, but I would go with him to get his, and we could hang out afterwards.
My friend knew I was going through a tough time, so when we got up to the counter, without even flinching, he asked the clerk for two Switches and two copies of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I looked at him in shock and awe, and he just brushed me aside, saying, “I know how much this means to you, just pay me back whenever.”
“It’s been five years since the Nintendo Switch was released, and sometimes it’s still incredible to me how new the system still feels.”
At that moment, the thrill of having such a unique system, combined with how open and new Breath of the Wild felt, made all my other worries melt away; and it may sound pathetically materialistic, but there were moments where I looked over at my Switch, and it just made me smile—knowing I had it, and the innovative new ideas it would bring to gaming was a small ray of light through the clouds.
It’s been five years since the Nintendo Switch was released, and sometimes it’s still incredible to me how new the system still feels. To this day it’s still apparent how every promise the system made is still being kept. Its versatility makes it great to sit down and play on a TV, and a near constant travel companion; whether you’re playing alone on a long flight, or sharing with family or friends while visiting. Even just talking about how much the system is good for, I’ve convinced at least six people that I know to get one.
But that doesn’t mean it’s been five years without any hiccups. While I know some people prefer the Switch Lite for it’s smaller size and more dedicated handheld experience; like 2DS before it, I just can’t understand how removing the things that make the system unique is supposed to be a selling feature. Even the Nintendo Switch OLED, despite having a really nice screen and larger internal storage, feels more like the Wii Motion Plus, insofar that it’s the way the Switch should’ve been from the start, not an “enhancement.”
But it’s hard to deny the quality of the Nintendo Switch when you look at what matters most: the games. These past five years have been, without a doubt, some of the best in Nintendo’s recent history. Nintendo delivered one of the best The Legend of Zelda games in recent memory—and then balanced the scales by re-releasing the worst onto the console. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, while by no means perfect, felt so fresh, so new, and so experimental; that it was almost a reflection of the system itself—even despite it initially being developed for the Wii U.
It was so bold, accessible, and versatile in its gameplay, that it perfectly suited this bold, accessible, and versatile little console. To follow it up, Nintendo released what, in my opinion, was the best 3D Super Mario in the series. Super Mario Odyssey followed in the footsteps of Breath of the Wild and evolved the series’ gameplay in ways that were creative and innovative, it’s hard to imagine ever playing a “normal” Super Mario ever again.
And despite how much it infuriates me to play it, there’s no denying that Super Smash Bros: Ultimate is the best entry in the series—I don’t care how good you think Melee is. Not only does it feel like the most balanced and technically tight game in the franchise, like I said in my article about it, its roster of iconic characters across not only the history of fighting games, but the history of video games makes it a fighting game that feels less like a Nintendo fighting game, but gaming’s definitive fighting game.
But it’s not just solid first party support that makes the Switch so incredible as a console. Nintendo has taken great strides to support talented indie developers, and some of the best indie games out there—games like Owlboy, Hyper Light Drifter, or Shovel Knight; that were so clearly inspired by classic Nintendo games feel right at home on the system, and are great to have on a console you can just take anywhere.
Coupled with that is third-party support that continues to shock and surprise me at how far the little system’s limits can be pushed. Starting with the incredible ports of DOOM 2016 and DOOM Eternal, to the shocking announcement that The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt would land on the Switch—and it actually runs really well if you don’t mind the graphical downgrade. But most incredible of all was the announcement during the February 2022 Nintendo Direct that No Man’s Sky would come to the Nintendo Switch—a game that, even before it’s many updates—seemed to big in ambition and system requirements for even the PS4 or Xbox One.
“Nintendo has never needed incredible hardware to do what they do best.”
It’s all these elements combined that sets the Nintendo Switch apart from its console brethren, or even potential “competitors.” You see a lot of people online talking about the Steam Deck as the “Switch killer,” but there’s more to the Switch than the ability the run Steam and Linux that make it unique as a handheld game.
It’s the way games are designed for portability, but also feel big enough to put on a TV; it’s the way the system’s unique controllers are taken into account when designing games, so you can both utilize their features, and play with friends; and it’s the way the console seems so limited that it consistently surprises you when it does something amazing.
The average lifespan of most consoles is about seven years, so assuming the Nintendo Switch still has three good years left in it, I honestly wouldn’t know what to expect for its future. You see the rumours of a “Switch Pro” floating around a lot, but honestly I don’t know how much it’s needed. Don’t get me wrong, I would love a more powerful Switch as much as the next guy; but Nintendo has never needed incredible hardware to do what they do best.
It’s never been about raw processing power, or graphical capability—as nice as those things are. From the DS to the Wii, to the 3DS, even the Wii U, and now the Switch; Nintendo has taken bold steps to innovate and create fun, interesting consoles. The Nintendo Switch has a special place in my heart, and has given me some of the best games I’ve played in this half-decade, and the most games I’ve been genuinely “hyped” for. Whatever the future holds for the Big N, and their little console, I’m sure it’ll be bright.